DVD/CD Review: Rainbow - Monsters of Rock: Donington 1980

The final live show from the Graham Bonnet era of Rainbow is a good one.
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1980 was a year of transition for Rainbow. Touring in support of Down To Earth, their sole album with singer Graham Bonnet, it found the band shifting from the lengthier songs and mystical lyrics of the Ronnie James Dio era to a more radio-friendly sound, which would be carried even further by Bonnet's successor, Joe Lynn Turner. That year the band headlined the first-ever festival at Castle Donington in England. The performance was filmed and recorded and makes up the DVD/CD Rainbow - Monsters Of Rock: Donington 1980.

While footage from this show had been available as a bootleg for some time, it has never been presented in this quality. Sadly, only about a half hour of the video survives, but the performance smokes. The DVD opens with an impressive pyrotechnic display -- both on stage in the form of explosions and from guitarist Ritchie Blackmore's Fender Stratocaster.

A brief jam on the Deep Purple classic "Lazy" leads into a potent "All Night Long," one of the Bonnet-era's better-known songs. Bonnet pushes his voice here and throughout, giving a gritty, powerful performance. "Catch The Rainbow" follows, immediately contrasting the Bonnet and the Dio era's distinct musical styles. Unfortunately the video is incomplete, but Blackmore's soloing is impeccable. The song is complete on the CD though and Bonnet, while not Dio, still delivers a strong version of this classic track.

It's also worth noting that the DVD is presented out of order. "Eyes Of The World," which opens the CD, follows "Catch The Rainbow Here." Still, it's a driving rendition and probably the closest this lineup came to sounding like its predecessor. A heartfelt cover of "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" and the band's anthem, "Long Live Rock 'N Roll" close out both the DVD and the CD. Notably absent on the DVD but present on the CD are the radio hit "Since You Been Gone" and the Dio gem "Stargazer."

The performance would prove to be the last with Bonnet on lead vocals. Though he was around for the early sessions for Difficult To Cure, he ultimately left the band. The show is a powerful reminder of Rainbow's presence as a live act and offers another look at this short-lived lineup of the band.